Julian Eltinge … Men Dressed in Drag in The Victorian Era … Jake Daniel


Julian Eltinge (1881 – 1941)

Long before Ru Paul … we celebrated the birth of popular stage actor, silent film star and renowned female impersonator Julian Eltinge. At one time the most popular drag performer in the world, Eltinge was born on 14 May 1881 in Newtonville, Massachusetts.

He began his career as a female impersonator at age 10, and his skills eventually made him a Vaudeville star. By 1906 his successful performances as ‘Eltinge’ in London culminated with a Command Performance before King Edward VII of England.

In 1910 he starred in a string of successful musical comedies on Broadway (“The Fascinating Widow”, “The Crinoline Girl”, and “Cousin Lucy”) written to showcase his skills.

In 1912 he was publicly feted in New York when The Eltinge Theatre was dedicated in his honour on 42nd Street. At the time he was one of the highest paid actors in America.

In 1914 he headed to Hollywood to star in silent film versions of his Broadway hits as well as “The Isle of Love” with Rudolph Valentino. What distinguished Eltinge from his contemporaries was his refusal to be a caricature of women; instead he presented a seamless illusion of actually being a woman, and then at the conclusion of his performance would remove his wig to an amazed audience. His transformation, with the aid of his male Japanese dresser, took two hours.

Though Eltinge was gay, he wildly overcompensated by frequently getting in fist fights, smoking cigars, and having long “engagements” with women – all of which were captured in staged publicity photographs. Despite his trail-blazing successes, by the 1930s female impersonation began losing popularity and crackdowns on cross-dressing in public had begun to prevent Eltinge from performing in costume.

In 1941 he fell ill performing at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe and died in his apartment 10 days later of a cerebral haemorrhage at age 59. Eltinge’s multi-faceted success as a female Impersonator has never been equalled.

Men Dressed in Drag in the Victorian Era

1870’s Farm Boys Portrait – These Tekonsha, Michigan farm boys presumably raided their mothers’ and sisters’ closets for this portrait

Men dressing in women’s clothing has been going on pretty much since the dawn of time, with reports of “cross-dressing” dating as far back as ancient Rome. Although, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the term “drag queen” came into popular use. The word ‘drag,’ most scholars agree, refers to the drag that came with hoop skirts, a popular lady’s style back in the day. But, as these images will attest, nothing was too over the top for these cross dressing trailblazers.

A line, however, was drawn when it came to public demonstrations of drag. When Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton shocked London society by daring to walk out in public as “Fanny and Stella,” there were still no laws preventing them from doing so. As a result, they, and others, were frequently charged with “the abominable crime of buggery”. Almost immediately, homosexuality would be firmly planted in the minds of people of that era as synonymous with drag.

Drag Queens from the 1890s and early 1900s:

Jake Daniels

Jake Daniels

Blackpool football star Jake Daniels has come out publicly becoming the only active gay male professional footballer in the UK. 

Daniels, who plays forward for Blackpool, is the first professional player in British men’s football to come out publicly since Justin Fashanu in 1990. Fashanu was the UK’s first professional footballer to come out as gay, but his career was cruelly cut short by homophobia before he took his own life. 

Countless LGBT+ advocates, fans and football organisations praised Jake Daniels for his decision to share his truth with the world, and a host of public figures have voiced their support for the young football star.

Sir Ian McKellen hailed the teenager as a “hero” on Twitter and said Daniels represented a “generation that rejects old-fashioned homophobia in football and elsewhere”. 

Prince William, who is the president of the Football Association, also tweeted his support for Jake Daniels. The Duke of Cambridge declared that football “should be a game for everyone”, and he believed that Daniels’ decision to “speak openly” will “help break down barriers” in society. The town of Blackpool showed their support by lighting up Blackpool Tower in rainbow colours.

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